What happens when the teacher takes the test

Yes, that's right, Year 11. It's a timed assessment. And Sarah Ledger will be doing it along with you

Sarah Ledger

Shocked-looking teacher, writing in notebook

OK, Year 11, as I said on Wednesday, we’re going to finish the week with an assessment

It’s going to be done in exam conditions, and it’s a question from a past paper. No, it’s closed book, so if you’ve worked on the quotations and references you had for homework you should be OK. 

Yes, I’m doing it too. Yes. Closed book. In timed conditions. I promised I would.  Yes, I know I’ve got an advantage…let’s see…1979 actually…for my English literature O level… It’s what we had before GCSEs…that’s good to know, Ryan…did your Nan do An Inspector Calls for O level as well? Did she? I got an A too. Because they didn’t have A*s back then or 9s…no, I’m not making it up…we don’t have time to google it. 

Let’s crack on. OK. I’ll set the timer: 45 minutes…well, borrow one from Liam…don’t forget to plan… Are we ready?

Changing attitudes

Well, THIS is easy. "How far does Priestley present Eric as a character who changes his attitudes towards himself and others during the play?"

Eric…blimey…let’s have a think. What quotations do I need? “Half shy, half assertive”… stage directions…typical teenager…“squiffy”…“good sport”. Hmmm. Does that answer the question? Where does it show he’s changed? Does he change? Or does he end up blaming his mother…paging Dr Freud…“chap turns nasty”: what does that tell us? 

Liam. Are you chewing? Put it in the bin please. You’ve swallowed it? OK. Focus.

What about the bit where he handles the decanter so everyone knows he’s familiar with quick heavy drinking…how does that work? Does he juggle it like a cocktail waiter? Has he changed by the end? Does he drop the decanter? That would be a turn up for the… 

No, we’re not using dictionaries this morning. You can use them when you go over the feedback and do your…OK. Crack on.

I don’t think he does change – seriously. He starts out an entitled idiot and he ends up an entitled idiot…whining to his mother…stealing from his father…and, let’s face it…at the very least it’s sexual harassment, but JB Priestley doesn’t seem to mind that…Mrs Birling and her cold, unfeminine demeanour. She’s the villain as far as JB is concerned…

Fire and blood and anguish

A music lesson? What, now? OK. Let me sign your planner. Could you finish this off at home, so we can go over this next lesson? Cheers. Close the door behind you...Close the …no, I haven’t finished. I’m just getting up to close the door because Martin appears to have been born in a…oh, your Nan says that, does she, Ryan? Maybe me and her should meet up…OK – final 10 minutes.

Wait, the question says “attitudes”…have I addressed that in my opening paragraph? I should have highlighted the question properly…oh, well, I bet the kids haven’t…they have…OK…blimey…context… Have I mentioned the Titanic? Hang on…what Eric’s attitude to the Titanic? Does it change by the end of the…? 

No – Amy, Eric is Sheila’s brother…Sheila’s engaged to Gerald. Yes, you will have to go back and change it…No, that’s right, Leanne…Gerald and Eric never find out – Can we keep focused please...? 

So, final paragraph…how am I drawing this together? “Fire and blood and anguish”? How does Eric respond to that? It’s all about him and his loss, isn’t it? Why does no one fight Gerald? Gerald’s the worst one. Is that relevant? 

Consequences of actions

I don’t think this is top band…have I used subject terminology judiciously? I don’t think I’ve used subject terminology even injudiciously…can I shoehorn in dramatic irony? This is so tricky… 

I remember the days when Eva Smith’s diary – a heartrending confessional in 17 chapters – was enough to get you a C…

Yes, I’m aware the bell is about to go. Remember, check spelling and punctuation because there are four marks for Spag…no, the canteen special is toad in the hole today …I didn’t mention spaghetti…it stands for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Nothing to do with bolognese… 

Make sure you’ve underlined the date and title…hand your books to the end of the row…yes, you can read mine next lesson…if we have time…we might not…stand behind your chairs…quietly…thank you. I’ll see you on Monday. 

God, this is awful. I need to finish this on a high note...Eric Birling is presented as an angry young man at the start of the play; by the end of the final act, he is still angry, but for different reasons. And although – get in the word "attitudes" – his attitude – haha, nailed it – towards his family is unchanged, he has a better understanding of the consequences of his actions... 

Sarah Ledger has been teaching English for 33 years

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